Sunday, April 26, 2009

Handwritten Notes in Business: 4 Ways to Use Handwriting to Your Benefit

Recently, one of my writing and marketing clients asked me what I thought about following up with business leads using a handwritten note instead of an email or expensive direct mail piece. I want to share with you what I said to her because it can be applied to your own business.

For business in general, I wouldn't necessarily use a handwritten note to land new business, but it is a highly appropriate way to say thank you for their business. There are exceptions to this rule, but it only applies to businesses where handmade cards are what they are selling. In this case, sending one of your beautiful creations in the mail to your prospects is a way to showcase your work and capture their attention. If you're selling computer equipment or accounting services, it seems strange to send a handwritten note.

With the widespread use of the computer, most businesses have abandoned the handwritten letter and note. People see anything that is handwritten to be unprofessional. There are a few marketing tactics where handwritten items can used to increase your open rate, however.

Hand address your envelopes

You can make your direct mail piece stand out from the rest by hand addressing your envelopes. Hand addressed envelopes trigger something in the brain that makes it seem more personal than the six or seven other pieces of "junk mail" in the mailbox that are obviously printed by a computer. If your direct mail campaigns consist of thousands of pieces, then this is probably not a wise use of your time or money.

Use a live stamp
A live stamp is a regular first-class mail stamp. It is not the postal meter used in many large offices or mail fulfillment houses that send out your direct mail for you. This may seem tedious if you are sending out large volumes of direct mail, but for a small extra cost, you can request live stamps even if your mail house is sending the mail for you. It increases open rates because recipients perceive it as personal mail rather than "junk mail," which usually winds up in the trash.

Write a personal note
Instead of using wording that is obviously a template or form letter, try to personalize the letter so it seems as if you are talking directly to the recipient. One easy way to do this is to make sure that all of your letters are personalized. Instead of using a letter that starts off, "Dear Client," use their first name instead, "Dear Zoe." You can also use a form letter but alter it slightly to speak to a specific event or industry topic.

For example, if you're a real estate agent mailing a letter to owners who are trying to sell their homes themselves, you may talk about your experience helping a homeowner in the same neighborhood that you were able to help that couldn't sell the home on their own.

Print a teaser on the envelope
Another tactic to increase your open rate is to print a teaser on the outside of your mail piece or envelope. If you can, hand write a note to those you know personally. If it is a prospect that doesn't know you then write or print something that "teases" them into wanting to know what is inside.

While it may not be appropriate for all businesses to use a handwritten note in their marketing efforts, there are ways you can personalize your marketing campaigns to make them seem less like a sales pitch. Think about your audience and your business to come up with creative ways to get the recipients to open what you're sending them.